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Back Compound Exercises

author image Linda Tarr Kent
Linda Tarr Kent is a reporter and editor with more than 20 years experience at Gannett Company Inc., The McClatchy Company, Sound Publishing Inc., Mach Publishing, MomFit The Movement and other companies. Her area of expertise is health and fitness. She is a Bosu fitness and stand-up paddle surfing instructor. Kent holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Washington State University.
Back Compound Exercises
A man is training his back by doing lateral pull downs. Photo Credit Click_and_Photo/iStock/Getty Images


Compound exercises allow you to work more than one muscle or muscle group at the same time. This is a form of functional fitness training, meaning you use the muscles in a manner that’s similar to real life. For example, you use your back during pulling motions involving your arms. The back’s major muscles are the latissimus dorsi, commonly called lats, rear deltoids, trapezius, erector spinae and rhomboids. Compound exercises shorten workouts because you’re working more than one muscle at a time. Perform two sets of 15 for an efficient workout.

Lat Pull-down

The lat pull-down works your entire upper body. This can be done with either an overhand or an underhand grip. Both methods work your lats, pectoral muscles, deltoids, biceps and forearms. You can also work your abdominals by crunching these muscles at the peak of the movement. This exercise is done seated on a weight machine with an overhead bar at the gym. Grip the bar with your hands shoulder-width apart if you are doing an underhand pull-down. Use a wider grip that keeps your elbows at a right angle when you pull down if you’re performing an overhand pull-down.

Romanian Dead Lift

The single-arm, single-leg Romanian dead lift will work your back along with your glutes and hips. You’ll primarily hit your erector spinae, lats, rhomboids, abdominals and glutes. Secondarily, you’ll work your trapezius, rear deltoids, quadriceps and biceps. Perform this exercise standing and holding a dumbbell in one hand. Lift the opposite leg slightly off the ground and slowly bend forward at the hips, keeping your back flat. At the same time, extend your arm. Move until your body is almost horizontal to the floor and the arm with the dumbbell is almost perpendicular to the floor. Return carefully to the start position. Holding the dumbbell on the same side as the leg you extend increases difficulty for this exercise.

Compound Row

The compound row will work the rhomboids, lats and trapezius muscles. It’ll also strengthen your shoulders, biceps and triceps. The exercise simulates the motion of rowing a boat. Do it seated on a weight machine with your chest resting against a front pad and the movement arms set so you fully extend your arms. If you don’t have access to a row station at the gym, do one-arm rows with a dumbbell. You perform the movement with one foot planted on the floor and the opposite knee and arm on a bench. Your body is parallel to the ground as you lift the dumbbell to perform the rowing movement.

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